Type of Flower
Kohleria is a New World genus of the flowering plant family Gesneriaceae. The plants are generally tropical herbs or subshrubs with velvety stems and foliage and brightly colored flowers with spots or markings in contrasting colors. They are rhizomatous and commonly include a period of dormancy in their growth cycle. The genus was recently revised by Kvist & Skog (1992) and was recognized as having 19 species distributed in Central America and South America. Recent phylogenetic work by Roalson et al. (2005) indicated that the epiphytic genus Capanea is derived from within Kohleria, and the two species of Capanea were subsequently transferred to Kohleria. The genus Pearcea is closely related.
Because of their colorful and exotically patterned flowers, as well as a general interest in the many tropical flowering plants that were being introduced from the Americas, kohlerias were very popular in England and Europe in the 19th Century. Many species and hybrids were lavishly illustrated in horticultural magazines such as Curtis's Botanical Magazine under the discarded or erroneous names of Achimenes, Gesneria, Isoloma, Sciadocalyx, and Tydaea. These species and hybrids almost entirely disappeared in the early 20th Century, and plant breeders have only recently begun to work extensively with this genus again.
Several species are widespread, variable, weedy, and tend to hybridize in the wild, and numerous names have been described that are synonyms of other species or are hybrid taxa.
Selected species and varieties
- Kohleria affinis (syn. Capanea affinis)
- Kohleria allenii
- Kohleria amabilis
- Kohleria hirsuta
- Kohleria inaequalis
- Kohleria spicata
- Kohleria tigridia (syn. Capanea grandiflora)
- Kohleria villosa
- Kohleria warscewiczii
These tropical beauties are easy to grow and are prolific bloomers. They have an upright growth habit and can quickly grow 1-2 ft (30-60 cm) tall.
Kohleria needs plenty of bright light to bloom. Keep out of direct sunlight.
Spring through fall, water thoroughly and allow the top 2 inches (5 cm) to dry out between waterings. In winter, water just enough to prevent leaves from wilting. Rhizomes store water so it's more tolerant of dry soil than wet.
Prefers relative humidity above 50%, but will tolerate lower levels. Use a room humidifier or a humidity tray to maintain moist air. Don't mist this plant because the hairy leaves will trap moisture, which will cause spots and possibly botrytis.
Average room temperatures 65-75°F/18-24°C. Don't expose your plant to temps below 60°F/16°C.
Feed every 2 weeks spring and summer with a high-phosphorus liquid fertilizer (such as 10-30-10) diluted by half.
Divide rhizomes in spring and pot separately. Or take 4-inch (10 cm) leaf tip cuttings with at least 1 pair of leaves attached and root in moist potting mix. Cover the whole thing with plastic or a glass cloche to hold in moisture. Cuttings root easily in about 4-6 weeks.